Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 22–29

How do recovery advice and behavioural characteristics influence upper-body function and quality of life among women 6 months after breast cancer diagnosis?

Original Article


Goals of work

After breast cancer treatment, women may experience significant and enduring problems relating to upper-body function (UBF) and quality of life (QoL). Women are often given advice to avoid problems, despite little scientific evidence to support or refute the advice given.

Patients and methods

This study addressed the relationships between recovery advice and subsequent behaviours on QoL (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy, Breast questionnaire) and UBF (Disability of Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire) 6 months after treatment for unilateral breast cancer among a population-based sample of women residing in southeast Queensland (n=287).

Main results

Eighty-seven percent (n=249) of women reported that they received advice on facilitating arm function during their hospital stay, whereas 72% received subsequent recovery advice from medical and/or allied health professionals. Reported QoL and UBF were similar between groups, irrespective of advice received. Behaviours of interest included adherence to advice given, participation in breast cancer programmes and whether women had flight travel, used the treated side as much as the untreated side or had trauma, sunburn, injections and/or blood pressure readings on the treated side in the previous 6 months. QoL and UBF were highest among those who followed minimal advice, who used their treated side as much as their untreated side and who did not participate in any breast cancer programme (p<0.05).


The findings neither support nor refute current recommendations made to women with breast cancer, but rather raise questions about the value of this recovery advice. The study also provides novel findings regarding relationships between certain behaviours and QoL among breast cancer survivors.


Breast cancer Upper-body function Quality of life 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Health Research, School of Public HealthQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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